Austin Tech Companies Worry About Talent Shortage

The Austin tech sector’s growth between now and 2017 will be complicated by a thin pipeline of STEM talent.

Austin SkylineToday, technology companies contribute some $21 billion to the local economy, about 25 percent of the total, according to the Austin Technology Council’s Technology Economic Impact Report. This year, nearly 80 percent of those businesses expect to add staff, and the report predicts the sector will create some 9,000 jobs by 2017.

As a result, says ATC Chairman Joel Trammell, area tech businesses must focus on “ensuring the region has an adequate talent supply to sustain our growth. Tech must invest in aggressive recruiting and training methods.”

The city’s overall employment picture illustrates the challenge local companies face: They need employees more than employees need them. From the Recession’s low point through today, Austin demonstrated the highest percentage of job growth in the U.S., according to the Brookings Institution; the third lowest unemployment rate in the country, according to the ATC; and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the city showed the greatest year-to-year increase in employment of any U.S. metropolitan area.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • The area’s fastest growing tech sectors between 2012 and 2017 will be Engineering Services, Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software Merchant Wholesalers, and Custom Computer Programming Services.
  • The job categories expected to face the greatest talent shortages through 2017 are software application developers, software systems developers, and customer support specialists.
  • The region’s fastest growing tech occupations today are computer systems analyst, software applications developer, computer support specialist and software systems developer.

To fill its pipeline, one of the ATC’s strategies is to find more ways to support Central Texas educational institutions in creating STEM programs. At its CEO Summit this week, the association also wants to explore ways tech companies can conduct more effective searches, and “align” themselves with companies in creative industries and non-technology organizations.


12 Responses to “Austin Tech Companies Worry About Talent Shortage”

  1. Austin Job Seeker

    Hi Mark, can you list the companies that are seeing a desperate shortage of workers? I am looking and will apply for positions I am qualified for. I will report back with the results! Thanks for your help Mark.

    • Mark Feffer

      Hi –

      The best source for that would probably be the Austin Technology Council itself. I’ve spoken with them in the past and found them to be pretty responsive. And, of course, I can’t resist mentioning it’s worth checking out the Austin job postings here on Dice. 🙂

  2. James L

    How much of that critical talent is simply in the wrong area? Here in the Hudson Valley, there’s plenty of talent, but every company that *can* leave has already left the region, or is in the process of leaving (thanks to the state legislature passing crushing taxes and legislation). I’m quite capable in these jobs, but simply can’t move to where all these shortages are. I’d be quite happy to apply for any “STEM” jobs in the area (except for IBM, of course).

    • bluemountain184

      > (thanks to the state legislature passing crushing taxes and legislation)

      Where is the proof that taxes in NY is crushing?
      You seem to get easily manipulated by right wing talking points.
      Besides, most “low” tax states (i.e., redneck southern states) also happened to get more money from the federal government than they pay in taxes.
      No wonder they can keep their taxes low by forcing NY to pay more.
      Aren’t you outraged by this, or do you like funneling your money to these slacking, undeserving low tax states?

    • Dante

      In silicon valley, our tax structure is ridiculously high. Silicon valley is one of the most expensive places on the planet to run any kind of business. It’s highway robbery – yet, companies start and thrive regularly. We still get 40% of the world’s VC funding and brillant people still come here in droves to start a company or join one of the thousands of high tech companies already in existence. So you can’t blame it on taxes. Business will go where they can succeed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Silicon Valley weather is moderate year around – something that can’t be replicated in Austin or NY, but you can’t blame the taxes.

  3. ATX Job Seeker

    I am in contact with hundreds of recruiters but these companies are not willing to train. I have been to numerous interviews in the Austin area and all they have done is say they like me but they want someone with more experience. After months of trying I finally got a programming job offer from a company in the Upper Midwest.

    My experience: I have several years experience as a software tester and experience as a C#.Net developer. I have a graduate degree in Computer Science that is recent. For a so-called fast growing area, companies in Austin are not trying to keep qualified candidates around.

    • ATX Job Seeker ,
      The reason why corporate do not want train anybody is that training is expensive. Even after training, corporate guys still will not able to take the project even to half way. Come to other side. If they corporate hire someone with experience and the project is over and this temp guy can be fired with 15 days notice, no question asked.

      10yrs ago vb4 and oracle is enough to survive. Today corporate guys needs temp worker to have 25 skills and imaging the training cost of 25 skill for corporate employ. When the corporate recruiter seeks a temp worker with 25 skill, certainly there is a man power shortage.

      • —–When the corporate recruiter seeks a temp worker with 25 skill, certainly there is a man power shortage.—-

        That’s not a manpower shortage; that’s a matter of unreasonable expectations on the part of the employer. They’re expecting one person to do a job that really should be 3-4 separate jobs performed by that many people.

        Frankly, someone who is so absolutely BRILLIANT that they have all of those skills doesn’t need to go work for someone else. Why should they, when they can start developing their own software/websites and make millions? It would be financially stupid for someone so skilled to take some dead-end temp job, or any job. That’s why the brilliant people refuse to take those jobs, and instead start their own companies.

        • ATX Job Seeker

          I agree; there is no so-called talent shortage just companies not willing to hire. When they do hire a person they expect that person to do the job of 3 and pay below the salary for one.

          Companies always have an excuse why they will not hire: we want someone more experienced but they post a position for a junior level candidate or suddenly they close the position due to lack of funding.

          There is no Tech Talent Shortage just companies not willing to hire and train.

          • Unfortunately, it goes back to what I just said over on LinkedIn (on an article about ageism in tech): if you cannot get a job in the tech field, complaining about it will do nothing. These companies are not going to change their ways, and even if they do eventually see the light, it could take years for them to get to that point. I for one didn’t have YEARS to sit around waiting for the job market to get better. Displaced tech workers have to figure out something else to do. That’s what I did. I’m an entrepreneur in the fitness industry, now.

            I’m upset that I wasted all of that time and money on a Math/CIS degree. I’ll always be upset about it, the same way someone else will always be upset about a divorce, a foreclosure or a failed business, but I had to move past it; I had to learn to live in my new normal. I had to learn to live in the real world, not the one I wished were real.

          • I couldn’t start a website business because, while I knew enough about building WordPress sites to build my own site (which didn’t need to be too sophisticated – the most important part is the content, not fancy dancing things jumping all over the place), I didn’t know anywhere near enough about it to build sites for other people…and it would have taken me several YEARS to attempt to learn enough about it on my own. I didn’t have YEARS to devote to trying to figure out how to build replicas of or eBay. For one thing, I’m not a graphic artist; I can’t even draw. No way could I create custom graphics from nothing. That’s simply not where my talent lies.

            I admit it: I’m not one of the absolutely BRILLIANT people I talked about in my previous post. I’m no Harold Finch. =) And realistically, MOST PEOPLE AREN’T. They may THINK they’re brilliant, but they’re like most folks: just average. People who are 100% fluent in 25 different programming languages are rare. They represent 1% or less of the total population. Those are the people who can start their own software businesses/websites and make millions.

            Although it must be said that it is fully possible to become a millionaire–or at least make significant money–even if you aren’t a Harold Finch. I know a crazy stoner who can barely spell. If you said “AJAX” to him, he’d think you were talking about cleanser. He makes $80,000.00/year as a dog sitter. Making money is less about intelligence and more about finding needs in the marketplace that you can reasonably fill, then going about filling them.

            If that utter moron can run a successful business, I’m certain that I can. And most other people could, too, if they were willing to get out of their comfort zone.